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Just another outrageous waste of taxpayers’ money, possibly on cronies, ho hum

In FOI, Governmental stupidity, Politics, Taxpayers' Money Bonfire on Saturday 20th February, 2010 by Guy Tagged: , , ,

Update (2010-11-10): the Government-funded game company Red Redemption Ltd release new game “Fate of the World“. I’ll leave the expert wordsmiths and clear thinkers of Spiked to discuss this sad day.

And now back to the original post…:

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The Taxpayers’ Alliance — who in a fair world would have the power of veto over every Government decision — chronicle how much of the £8.6million the Government spent on something called the Climate s Change Fund, a propaganda effort to change opinion on climate change, was a waste of money even by the Government’s own criteria, leaving aside the outrageous use of public money for propaganda.

In their accompanying note on what remnants of this effort can still be found online — because obviously there’s no point in maximising what little value there already was in the project by ensuring that the resulting project outcomes are available as long as possible — I was struck by a game called Operation Climate Control (which is still online) that was created by an organisation called the “Yigal Allon Educational Trust”, who were given £49,480 to develop it. Who is Yigal Allon? Only a top Israeli politician who was Prime Minister for about a month on an interim basis in 1969 following the death of his predecessor, Levi Eshkol.

But what does Yigal Allon, who died in 1980, have to do with climate change? A good question. The short answer, as far as I can tell, is “nothing”. So why is his “educational trust” involved with the CCF?

First things first: what is the “Yigal Allon Educational Trust”? According to Stone Ashdown, which somehow looks after the YAET,

Yigal Allon was registered by trust deed in December 1985 with a distinguished list of founding members including former Prime Minister Harold Wilson, Ian Mikardo, Lord Glenamara, Baroness Birk and Gavin Laird. The Trust has worked closely with and supported Labour Friends of Israel, the Holocaust Trust and promoted a peace conference between Palestinians and Israelis at Ditchley Park in 2003.

Good stuff I’m sure, but worryingly distant from anything to do with the enviroment, and worryingly close to the Labour party.

Being a charity, the YAET is regulated by the Charity Commission. Its information on the charity includes the following highlights:

  • For the financial year ending 31 December 2006, the charity’s income came to £49,480… which is also the amount given it by the CCF! So for that year the “charity” received 100% of its income from the Government. This is confirmed in its accounts for the year (see page 7 of the PDF, which is page 5 of the report).
  • Its income for 2007 was, in contrast, a grand total of £700. No accounts were submitted because apparently a charity requires an annual income of £10,000 before being required to submit accounts.
  • Its income for 2008 was… well, we don’t know, because the accounts for that year are now 112 days overdue.
  • Its income for 2009 was… we don’t know either. It is worth noting that Stone Ashdown, who look after the YAET, say on their front page that

Stone Ashdown Trust has become one of the UK’s first charitable foundations to “spend out” its capital. The Trust has allocated all future funding and will cease operations in 2009. No further grants will be made and no applications will be considered.

I don’t know whether this means YAET is also ceasing operations, such as they are. What seems to be certain is that it hasn’t really done much recently, apart from developing this £50k game.

(a) to or towards or for the benefit or in furtherance of such charitable purposes[,] charitable institutioans [sic] or charitable foundations in the United Kingdom or elsewhere at such time or times and in such manner and in such proportions as the trustees may from time to time in their absolute discretion determine.
(b) to educate trade unionists in the united kingdom in the history[,] philosophy and development of trade unions in Israel with special reference to the development of the kibbutz and moshav movement and the histadrut.
Part (b) seems almost comically different from making a climate change game, and part (a) is so vague I’m not surprised that they receive so little in donations — after all, they can spend the money at their “absolute discretion”!
  • Who are the trustees? Right now, they are
  • Dr Richard Stone
  • Lady Gould
  • Lord Clarke

And who are these fine, upstanding betitled people? Some titbits:

Dr Richard Stone was on the panel of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry (1997-99) as adviser to Sir William Macpherson. He was also on the panel of the 2003-04 David Bennett Inquiry into the death of a black patient during restraint in the medium secure psychiatry unit in Norwich.

He is President of the Jewish Council for Racial Equality and vice-chair of the Runnymede Trust.

Founder and co-chair of Alif-Aleph UK (British Muslims and British Jews), Dr Stone is also on the Council and Board of Liberty. He is a member of the Home Office’s Working Groups on Tackling Extremism Together, and chairs the recently re-convened Commission on British Muslims & Islamophobia, originally set up by the Runnymede Trust in 1995.

Not particularly informative, methinks, but there it is.

One can’t help but wonder if the Trust would have received the money if the trustees were Conservative peers. I guess we’ll never know.

One last thing: the Stone Ashdown site for the YAET mentions the Operation: Climate Control project, and gives the email address ccf@yigalallon.org as a contact address [cf. the Commission website for the contact details for the YAET, which has no website or email information on it]. So what website is there at yigalallon.org? None. According to the site records, the site just points back to red-redemption.com. And what is at that site? Red Redemption Ltd, “the indie games developers of the Climate Challenge series of games”, and the developers of Operation: Climate Control, as well as a new game called Climate Change 2010. Fair play to them, but why are they in control of the yigalallon.org domain? Pretty mysterious. I’m glad to see that they’re now making games for the market rather than depending on taxpayers’ money (as in the case of another of their games, the very similarly named Climate Change, which was “sponsored” by the BBC, and can still be played here), unless I missed something. Their team page is pretty bombastic (for example, describing the House of Commons as “historic” for no good reason), but I guess that’s their right.

I feel a Freedom of Information request is needed to find out why the YAET were chosen to make this game. [Unfortunately I’m not sure we’ll ever find out the connection between YAET and Red Redemption Ltd.] Stay tuned…

Update: Here’s a puff piece about Climate Change 2010 from the Guardian. The comments are pretty wry.

Another update: Freedom of Information request on its way. There’s also some information about the game in the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s evaluation of the Climate Change Fund, which the Taxpayers’ Alliance got hold of and put on their site. The case study starts on page 102 of the PDF, which is page 101 of the report. The Taxpayers’ Alliance report based on the evaluation notes (on page 8 of both the PDF and the report) that

The report says that 1,048 active sessions (games with at least one player) created between July 2007 and April 2008. That implies that the project cost around £47 in grant funding per game played, to which the opportunity cost of class time used to play the game can be added.

My emphasis, as though that were needed. That’s one heck of a game.

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